When Honduras made their first and only FIFA World Cup™ finals appearance at Spain 1982 the squad was made up entirely of players from the domestic league. And despite the Catrachos' excellent performances in Spain, surprisingly few members of the team managed to earn moves to Europe's top leagues.
Times have changed, however, as a look at the make-up of the current Honduras squad reveals. The Central Americans have fielded at least six overseas-based players in each of their South Africa 2010 qualifying matches to date, some of them plying their trade in the most competitive leagues on the planet.
Suazo the standard bearer
For several years now David Suazo has shouldered the responsibility of leading the team. The pacy striker served notice of his abilities at a very young age, earning a move to Italian club Cagliari, where he became the cornerstone of the side and an idol to the fans.
His efforts in Sardinia did not go unnoticed by the Serie A aristocracy, with AC Milan and Inter engaging in a battle for his services. It was I Nerazzurri who eventually secured the signing of La Pantera, and after scoring eight goals in his first season with the club Suazo was loaned out to Benfica, where he is impressing once again.
Suazo's success opened the door for a number of his talented compatriots, who have eagerly seized the opportunity to impress on the European stage, among them Julio Cesar Leon. Following a brief stay in Mexico with Celaya, Rambo also made the journey to Italy, where he performed with distinction for Genoa before catching the eye at Parma.
Fortunately for Honduras, their exports have been able to replicate their league form for the national team, helping the Catrachos move ever closer to realising their dream of returning to the FIFA World Cup finals again. "There's no question that playing abroad has given Honduran players something extra," coach Reinaldo Rueda told FIFA.com in a recent interview. "They've got belief in their ability now and their self-confidence has increased. It's all very positive."
The English contingent
Wigan Athletic shocked their fans when they announced the signings of Wilson Palacios and Maynor Figueroa. "Honduras?" asked incredulous Latics supporters on the club's internet forums. "Where's that? Do they play football there?" Within a few short months, those questions had been answered, with Wigan diehards all agreed that the club had invested wisely in bringing the Honduran duo to the Premier League.
Palacios became a firm favourite at the JJB Stadium from the off. His determination to win every loose ball and his distribution skills quickly made him one of the most popular players in the side, with the fans dedicating various terrace chants to him. They were not the only ones who were impressed, either, and eventually Tottenham Hotspur lured him down to London at a cost of around £15m, the largest ever fee paid for a player from the North, Central American and Caribbean zone.
Fellow countryman Figueroa took a little longer to settle but once he did, he started producing the form that has attracted several scouts to this corner of northern England. A mainstay of the Wigan rearguard, Figueroa is another to inspire devotion from the supporters.
This quality quartet are not the only Honduran venturers to showcase their skills in a foreign land. Striker Carlo Costly moved to Polish club GKS Belchatow before going out on loan to Birmingham City, while Victor Bernardez is trying his luck in Belgium, Walter Martinez in Spain, Amado Guevara in the USA and Canada (MLS) and Ramon Nunez in Mexico.
And provided that Suazo and Co can secure a place at South Africa 2010, it is reasonable to assume that, unlike the class of 82, more Honduran players will be given the chance to show they have the skills and the temperament to adapt to life in some of the world's toughest championships.